Methadone is a prescription drug used to treat severe pain. It’s also used to treat addiction to opioid drugs, such as heroin. It’s often a very helpful and effective treatment for those who need it for this purpose.
Methadone is itself an opioid and can be addictive. It’s possible for some people to become addicted to methadone as they use it to wean themselves off of another prescription painkiller.
When you stop taking methadone after you’ve been taking it for a while, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Getting through methadone withdrawal can be a painful experience. You should discuss the risks and benefits associated with methadone treatment with your doctor. They can help you decide whether long-term therapy or discontinuation of methadone is right for you.
Symptoms of methadone withdrawal, also sometimes referred to as methadone detox, typically start to appear approximately 24-36 hours after you last took the drug. The detox process is supervised by a physician. The duration of the process varies from person to person, but may last anywhere from 2-3 weeks up to 6 months.
You may be having withdrawal if within the first 30 hours that you stop taking methadone, you experience:
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- trouble sleeping
At first, symptoms of withdrawal may feel like the flu. But unlike with the flu, withdrawal symptoms can remain severe for several days. Certain symptoms may peak after about three days. These include:
- muscle aches and pains
- severe nausea
- drug cravings
The symptoms will likely be at their worst during the first week. Some symptoms can last even longer than a week. These include low energy levels, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and depression.
Withdrawal can cause much discomfort, and the risk of returning to the use of other opiates can increase. Therefore, some people discuss remaining on methadone treatment but at lower doses, if tolerated. Once a person becomes stable at a lower dose, another attempt at tapering can be discussed with your doctor.
Methadone withdrawal is difficult, so it’s best not to attempt to do it on your own. Let your doctor know any troubles you are having so that they can help treat your withdrawal symptoms if they arise. Support groups can connect you with others who understand what you’re going through.
Drug treatment for withdrawal
Your doctor can provide treatments to ease withdrawal symptoms. These treatments make it much more likely that you’ll recover fully. Buprenorphine, naloxone, and clonidine are drugs used to shorten the withdrawal process and relieve some of the related symptoms.
Guided methadone therapy
Due to the risk of methadone misuse and overdose, methadone therapy is only available to people who are enrolled in a government-approved treatment program. A doctor monitors your methadone intake and response to make sure that the withdrawal process is safe and effective. The doctor continues the therapy until your body no longer needs methadone at all.
Group support can be crucial for long-term recovery. In some cases, you may not find a lot of support from your family because they may not be able to understand. Seeking out other recovering methadone users can help you find people who understand what you’re going through and help you stay on track with your recovery.
Once you’re no longer taking methadone, it’s critical that you don’t return to previously used opiates or opioids again. People recovering from opioid misuse are at higher risk of death than the general public.
For support in getting away and staying away from these drugs, Narcotics Anonymous can help.
Opiate and opioid misuse can be life-threatening. Taking steps toward recovery is admirable and will improve your long-term health. While withdrawal from any addictive substance may be difficult, the long-term benefits far outweigh the risks.
Talk to your doctor as methadone therapy may be beneficial as you discontinue the misuse of other opioid drugs. Your doctor will keep an eye on your progress as you taper off methadone and can help ease the withdrawal process to improve your chances of recovery. They can also answer any questions you may have about addiction and withdrawal. These might include:
- Is there a medication that might help me get through withdrawal?
- Would you recommend guided methadone therapy for me?
- Where can I find a support group?